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Contrary to popular belief, the beginning reading skills that children acquire in kindergarten do not fade away during the warm summer days away from school. Rather, two Illinois researchers report, children ''continue informally to extend their knowledge" during summer vacation.

The study was conducted by Christine McCormick, a school psychologist for the Eastern Illinois Area of Special Education, and Jana M. Mason of the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

The researchers began by interviewing 15 primary-school teachers in a small Midwestern city to confirm their "suspicion" that teachers think young children lose knowledge over the summer. Fourteen of the teachers agreed that teachers generally believe this to be true; half of them said that most or all of the children they teach lose their skills over the summer, and none reported that their students maintain or increase their reading skills.

But when the researchers tested 66 kindergarten students in April, a month before the end of school, and retested 59 of the youngsters during the first week of the next school year, they found that the teachers' beliefs were unfounded.

"The test-retest results showed a score increase on every part of the test," the researchers write. "Further, nearly every child made a gain on more than one subtest" of the six subtests included in the Letter and Word Reading Test.

The results of the study appeared in the November 1981 issue of The Reading Teacher.


Expressing views that differ significantly from those of adults in 1969, many school children polled recently said that poor people are the victims of inflation, hard times, and other factors beyond their control.

In the 1969 study, researchers found that many adults believed that poverty stemmed from a lack of ambition and resourcefulness. But Terrance S. Luce, a professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, believes his study is the first to examine2p3children's perceptions of poverty.

In contrast to the adults in the earlier study, 40 percent of the children polled in the Oklahoma study suggested that a person was poor because of inflation, unemployment, discrimination, or some other social factor. Twenty-five percent of the children said that poverty was in some way the fault of the poor person; another 25 percent attributed it to inferior education, and 10 percent blamed "bad luck."

The study, conducted in 1979-1980, involved asking 842 Tulsa students between the ages of five and 17 to look at a photograph of a white, black, or Native American person, pretend that the person was poor, and explain the reasons for his or her poverty.

Although many of the children polled showed an awareness of the economic causes of poverty, the responses of a significant number of white children suggest that they hold "serious and derogatory stereotypes" of blacks and American Indians, Mr. Luce said. Fifty-four percent of the white children who attributed poverty among minority groups to individual causes specified "criminal behavior," he said. For example, this might mean that the person was poor because he or she had been in jail, or could not keep a job because of dishonesty.

None of the white children imputed "criminal behavior" to poor whites, and no minority children said that "criminal behavior" was a cause of poverty for any ethnic group.

"One can't draw too many firm conclusions" from the study's findings, Mr. Luce said. But he expressed the hope that others will examine some of the questions that his work raises.


Because of increased participation by girls, the overall number of high-school students competing in athletics has increased for the first time in two years, according to a survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The survey of 18,000 high schools showed that 14,000 more girls participated in sports during the 1979-80 school year than in the previous year--an increase of almost 6 percent.

Boys' participation dropped for the third year in a row.

The girls' favorite sport was basketball, and the fastest-growing sport was volleyball.


An autumn outbreak of measles in Lee County, Fla., temporarily downed 88 people, but it did demonstrate that the strengthened immunization law enacted in the state earlier this year was effective in swiftly controlling the outbreak, according to an analysis published last week by the Centers for Disease Control (cdc) in Atlanta.

The revised law requires that school officials exclude students who lack adequate evidence of immunity to measles, defined by the state as a record of vaccination or a physician's statement that the child has already had the disease.

Fifty of those who became ill were attending school or day-care centers at the time they became ill. Local authorities responded to the outbreak by ordering a review of 35,000 immunization records to identify students with inadequate records of immunity. When the records were first reviewed in three of the county's high schools, 50 percent of the students lacked evidence of immunity.

But by Oct. 12, when a county-wide order to bar unimmunized children from school took effect, only five to 10 percent of the students lacked records. Three days later, data from all five high schools, seven of nine middle schools, and 25 of 28 elementary schools showed that less than one percent of enrolled students were out of school because of inadequate immunity.

"Control measures were successful because of close cooperation among the county school board, the county health department, private physicians, and the public," according to the cdc "Exclusion from school attendance resulted in only brief absences for most of the susceptible students.

"In several schools," the report says, "the number of medical and religious exemptions also declined, suggesting that some individuals reconsidered the importance of vaccination in the face of a measles outbreak."

Available data, cdc notes, suggest that Florida has chosen the "most effective way to prevent measles--vigorous application of the new school immunization law with exclusion of noncompliant students from school."

The analysis appeared in the Dec. 11 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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